Minnesota's Medical Pot Law Was Swift to Implement But Expensive for Political Reasons

Cannabis oil

Photo by Stephen Charles Thompson (anon_lynx) via WikiMedia Commons: Cannabis oil extract 3.5 grams in oral syringe with package container.
The medical cannabis laws in Minnesota are likely the most restrictive in the nation, with only a handful of conditions to qualify for the expensive pill or oil form products peddled by the monopolized and highly controlled government medical marijuana program under the state's department of health. Only two suppliers are given permission in Minnesota to grow, cultivate and convert the marijuana buds, which contain the active THC ingredient helpful for pain management, to be distributed to only eight dispensaries in the state. The two manufacturers for medical pot, Minnesota Medical Solutions and LeafLine Labs, work with the Minnesota Department of Health to take away the street drug appeal, a major reason to turn it into a pill or oil form. However, Minnesota is currently facing a major opioid epidemic that stems from prescription drug abuse and a market with some of the purest heroin in the United States out on the streets. Many people have said the legal prices are so expensive, not to mention the drive involved for some rural patients or those not near a dispensary, that they would rather opt to buy weed on the streets in whatever format they prefer. As of this writing, not even all eight dispensaries have yet opened.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that the law and programs were definitely rolled out in a timely fashion, especially compared with other states, but there are many concerns about the program among patients, critics and serious reformists. They interviewed some of these patients and those not eligible until the intractable pain addition to the law is approved and legalized. For now, those with non-terminal but intractable pain, are not able to buy cannabis in any format. So some, like Janessa Lea, smoke the illegal stuff. She actually setup a tent in her back yard to get high away from her daughter. She told MPR that it is shameful but her prescription narcotics quit working (a common complaint among prescription pain med users) and she was not functioning properly as a mother as a result.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a group that fights to reform and change laws regarding marijuana has kept a close eye on the situation in Minnesota. They have created a news alert that updates people on Minnesota's marijuana law developments. The group said it is hopeful for the state's program and sees positive results but they will move toward more reform action if the access and cost problem are not addressed for patients in the state.

Other U.S. states have already gone as far as legalizing the drug for recreational use. Bernie Sanders, a U.S. presidential candidate and Independent member of Congress, said cannabis should be taken off the scheduled controlled substance class list altogether, eliminating its current federal ban. This would be historic but it is unlikely Hilary Clinton, who has ties to the pharmaceutical narcotics industry, or Donald Trump, who is more likely to view the drug with a demonized stereotypical view, will support eliminating the federal ban. Trump, at best, may support state's rights to pass their own laws.

There hasn't been much talk about marijuana from any of Minnesota's politicians other than the few who support "ending the drug war" but few actually define what that would actually mean in concrete terms. This includes Gov. Mark Dayton, State Senator Al Franken and a long list of others, current and former, that have been virtually silent on putting forth real reform in drug policy and marijuana policy in particular. It seems weed is still witchcraft for politicians.